Sympatico Column: Cabot Links — Canada's Next Great Course?

A long par-5 at Cabot Links. Notice the approach shot from the right, which forces golfers to play over a ravine.

This week’s Sympatico column, on golf course visionary Mike Keiser and his involvement with Cabot Links in Cape Breton, is now online. Here’s the first few paragraphs to hopefully capture your imagination — the whole column is here.

“I envision that hill with marram grass looking just like those dunes.”

So says Mike Keiser, entrepreneur, businessman, golf course creator, and iconoclast as he talks over the noise of large earth-moving machinery. He’s standing on muddy flats next to an ocean side harbour talking to a group of onlookers, including golf designer Rod Whitman and Toronto businessman Ben Cowan-Dewar. While he gesticulates, he discusses the nuances of a hole on what will soon be a hole on the most anticipated new golf course in Canada in the last decade. Oh hell, let’s be honest – Cabot Links, located on the west coast of Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, might be the most interesting project to be built in Canada since golf course genius Stanley Thompson created Highlands Links in 1939. It has that sort of potential, and it is against greatness that it’ll be judged. It sounds like hyperbole, but that’s what we’re talking about with Cabot Links. Its seaside location and its appearance as a real links in a country devoid of by-the-definition seaside golf, as well as Keiser’s role as owner, make the course one of the most scrutinized in Canadian history. And given the fact so few courses are being built anywhere in North America following the economic downturn in 2008, it makes Cabot in a league of its own.

In this case, Keiser, wearing a jacket logoed with the Bandon Dunes insignia, his award-winning resort in Oregon that includes four courses – with a fifth to come online in coming years – is wandering the Cabot Links site as part of a regular inspection. He’s arrived in Inverness, a slightly bedraggled seaside town that has struggled through the failure of its fishing and mining, for the fourth time this year brimming with enthusiasm for the project, which started in earnest last year. Keiser once said Inverness was ugly, but he’s warming to the town as his course takes shape.

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Jeff Lancaster

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